Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
The letters that spell out The Duck above the doorway to this neighborhood joint sit slightly askew, as if they were alphabet magnets stuck haphazardly to the refrigerator by a toddler's chubby hand. Inside, you'll find the usual suspects — groups of college-aged men throwing darts, a handful of focused drinkers with elbows propped on the polished bar top and eyes pointed at a TV screen or into a drink, a couple sharing a basket of wings. Nothing particularly remarkable about any of it, really, but then — that's kind of the point. In South Florida — a place flush with doormen, valet parking, and a palpable desire to impress — the Duck is an oasis of nonpretense and exceptionally strong cocktails that won't set you back a quarter of your daily earnings.
Hidden on the bottom floor of a condo building is a dimly lit enclave of polished exclusivity. Just a handful of tables fits inside, and lights shaped like champagne bubbles hang from the ceiling. A large, comfy leather couch sits beneath a huge flat-screen TV that flashes soundless classics such as the The Big Lebowski. Along with the wine bottles lining every available shelf space, floor-to-ceiling pillars cleverly pose as life-sized corks, engraved with names such as Merlot, Fer, and Marzemino. A glass coffee table in the back is filled with more corks, lest you forget your purpose in lounging here. As you sit and sip from your favorite pinot, you can graze on cheese plates and dark-chocolate-covered açaí berries. A quote on the bathroom door says, "Wine is bottled poetry." In this bar, they mean it.
At first, you might think you love Vibe just for its nice rack. But after spending a little bit more time with this sensual, jazzy, 4,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor club that bills itself as Fort Lauderdale's "only music ultra lounge," you might discover that your love runs a little deeper. Yes, the overhead lighting panel that resembles several dozen breasts of various shapes and sizes is both glowing and glorious, but at Vibe, there's more to life than beautiful bosoms: Strong drinks and good music are pretty awesome too.
Laser Wolf's genesis occurred when a group of flannel- and skinny-jeans-wearing, craft-beer-drinking 20- and 30-somethings finally realized they were much too cool for the bars on Himmarshee. Now they all go to Laser Wolf. They chill out and play music you have never heard of from a vinyl record player. They're hot and young and fun, and they'll even welcome you if you're not as cool as them (and trust me, you aren't). A word of caution: Do not refer to them using a certain word that rhymes with flipster or you will be sent away to hang out with the drunken frat boys, trashy townies, and common folk who have generic musical tastes.
The last time I saw Barbie, she looked pretty desirable. But after a long night of drinking at PRL, she's ended up naked and tied up in a birdcage. Unfortunately for Barbie, explicit photographs of her risqué night of partying adorn the walls. Albeit, she's doing better than the Polish soldiers — all that's left of them is their hats. And poor Tony Montana... looks like someone robbed his grave, displaying his gun like a trophy. Perhaps the perpetrator is the same person who hung the plastic helicopters from the ceiling pipes. I'm a little confused about how the music is still playing, considering that a heap of records has ended up nailed to the wall. I think the only way I'll be able to get the full story is by looking through the photos in the corridor leading to the bathroom. Regardless of what happened here, the walls of PRL really do tell a story.
Finding a happy-hour spot in Fort Lauderdale is about as easy as spotting a guy wearing Ed Hardy. You just have to open your eyes. However, many of the happy-hour specials don't get started until after the workday, and what fun is that? So for those who live by the motto "It's 5 o'clock somewhere," Bahia Cabana is the happy-hour destination for you. Kicking off at the crack of dawn, it has not one, not two but three happy hours a day — 7 to 11 a.m., 4 to 7 p.m., and after 10 p.m. During the morning and afternoon, all drinks are a dollar off. Two-for-one piña coladas and rum runners start after 10 p.m. Added bonus: If you're not stumbling too much, enjoy the rest of happy hour in the pool. Don't worry about driving home either; Bahia Cabana is a stop on the Water Taxi circuit, making this happy-hour extravaganza safer than the rest.
Here's what a sports fan wants — nay, needs — in a good sports bar: good food, reasonably priced alcohol, plenty of screen visibility, and a crowd that doesn't make the entire thing painful. It sounds like a simple formula, but it's almost never done right. Duffy's, a Florida-based chain of fan-friendly bar and grills, is catching on, though. The location just off SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale, in a building that used to house a steak joint, features a bar surrounded by giant flat screens hanging overhead like glowing altars to gods of sport. The menu is also diverse, with everything from glazed ribs to burgers to decadent nachos to goat cheese salads. And the regulars are generally above drunken obnoxiousness but not above giving a stranger a high-five when the home team scores.
To find yourself a badass neighborhood bar, you need only employ the bar checklist: Ambiance, Bartender, Cocktails, Distraction (ABCD).
Good ambiance, check: The walls of Yak-Zies are covered with neatly arranged photos of local dogs (the late Missy was rumored to prefer Miller beer), Norman Rockwell prints, and humor posters — the Three Stooges get an entire wall to themselves. Nice bartenders, check: Don, who looks like a reject from a glam metal band, is a sweetheart who dishes up quick drinks and corny jokes ("This place is like aisle nine at Winn-Dixie — mixed nuts," he's fond of saying). Cheap cocktails, check: Two-for-one happy hours provide all the flowing liquor you could require. Distraction from your boring life, check: a charming waterfront view, fun locals, and frequent (and well-frequented) karaoke nights. Bonus: Check out the nudie pics in the bathrooms. If you use the happy hour (see "cheap cocktails") like you should, you'll be spending some time in there.
You might not know the Funky Buddha. He is not much like his brother, the Buddha. While the Buddha enjoys being enlightened, the Funky Buddha enjoys sucking down double-apple-flavored smoke. The Buddha enjoys spirituality; the Funky Buddha is mostly interested in drinking fancy craft beers, downing kava, and listening to an acoustic version of "Bad Romance," jokes about masturbation, or whatever else might come up on open-mic night. Yeah, the Funky Buddha is a tiny bit cooler.
Our tale started a few months ago, when we marched right into downtown Fort Lauderdale, demanding to dance. At the first dance floor we tried, napkins littered the ground, '90s hip-hop blasted out of the speakers, and the lighting made us feel like we were dancing at high noon. No, thank you, America's Backyard. We then strolled down Second Street, perked our ears at each door, and... next, next, next. Finally, we heard "Stayin' Alive," so we strutted inside, but that pitch-black dance floor was... dead. No, thank you, Tarpon Bend. What were we to do? We then traveled down SW Third Avenue — past VooDoo — and entered the Green Room. It was a sleek, dark, sexy venue — and full of dancing vixens, the indie kids that never made it to this side of downtown. Sure, Green Room still had the same owner — back when it was... sorry, I'm drawing a blank. Well, the owner is also the man also who runs Revolution Live and America's Backyard. But "Green Room" has a new "identity" and hosts a killer dance party called "Digital Love Thursday," when resident DJs Andie Sweetswirl and Mig play a cocktail of '80s, indie rock, electro, and dance gems. Eighteen-and-over are welcome to shake, but only those 21 and over can enjoy the $2 PBRs and $5 Jack Daniels shots all night.
There are plenty of places in South Florida that cater to the home team and an exorbitant number of dives that welcome fans of Northeast teams like the Giants, Jets, and even Patriots, but where is a die-hard "Iggles" fan to go? With its tropical-storm-system moniker and nautical interior, Delray Beach's Hurricane Bar & Lounge isn't the most obvious of choices for an ex-resident of the City of Brotherly Love to take in a sports game. Heck, even its nondescript locale — on the backside of an Atlantic Avenue shopping plaza — isn't the easiest to find. But those Philly fans who are lucky enough to arrive here on football "Sundy" will discover a welcoming environment that celebrates all things Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers. They will feel very cozy in its modest-sized confines with its tiki-themed outside patio and take comfort in its cheap drinks and multitude of like-minded aficionados sporting their green-and-white jerseys, yelling various expletives at the referees projected on the multitude of screens. Warning to everyone else: Don't even think about coming inside here in a Santa suit.
"What's a mermaid show? Like, she has a tail — and she's underwater?" your friends from a boring state far away where the sun isn't always shining will ask, a bit skeptical of your plan. At this point, you'll have some explaining to do on your way to Wreck Bar, the shipwreck-style dark wooden bar with wide windows looking into the Sheraton's pool. Before the half-hour show begins, you can see, from the neck down, not-so-fit patrons bobbing along, an impromptu warm-up of humor. Soon they will be replaced by svelte, tailed women. The mermaids, with long hair and angelic underwater choreography, peek through the panoramic rope-framed windows. They move like belly-dancing flounders and flirt with patrons they undoubtedly can't see with eyes open in the chlorinated pool. Now your vacationing friends will wonder if one of the mermaids just blew a kiss their way. Yes, she did, you'll say, and remind them that you can't get this up North.